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What is the En Passant Move in Chess?

Numerous years ago, the dynamics of chess games changed when people made a rule that allowed pawns to advance two squares in their first move. This rule permitted many players to obtain passed pawns, which are highly advantageous to the game. To avoid radical changes in the game, people created the en passant move. 

Directly translated from the French words meaning in passing, the en passant move in chess captures pawns according to its name. The en passant move is the only rule in chess where the player’s chess piece doesn’t land on the square of the captured pawn.

How Do You Use the En Passant Move in Chess?

Known as one of the surprising moves one can do in a game, the en passant rule is a special rule that captures chess pawns. Directly translated from the French translation in passing, the move’s name already tells how the capture proceeds.

Pawns usually seize other chess pieces directly and diagonally in front of them adjacently. After they capture the chess piece, they’ll move to the chess piece’s position. The en passant move is different from the usual movements of pawns and other chess pieces in general. The en passant remains the only capture in chess where the seizing piece doesn’t land on the same square as its target.

To use the en passant, you must grab your opponent’s pawn as if it had only moved one square, even if it had advanced directly into two squares. After the capturing move, your pawn moves diagonally to an adjacent square, a rank farther from its place on the same file the captured pawn was.

There are three requirements one needs to meet before using the en passant. First, the capturing pawn must have moved only three ranks forward. After, the opponent’s pawn should advance two squares in one move, directly landing next to the capturing pawn. Lastly, if the player didn’t use the en passant in the subsequent move, they will never have the chance to do it again.

A player can no longer play the en passant once the capturing pawn has advanced for four or more ranks. Additionally, the capture is invalid if the opponent’s pawn lands next to yours after two moves.  (Source: Chess

The History of the En Passant

Heavily connected to a chess move created to make chess more intriguing, the en passant move proves to be unpredictable in some games. Countless years ago, pawns could only advance one rank per move. As some audiences deemed the game too slow because of the pawn’s slow movement, people modified the moves of pawns. And soon after, pawns gained the ability to jump two squares from their home square.


Alongside the changing of the pawn’s legal movements, the dynamics of chess also changed. Players saw passed pawns to be an excellent advantage, and as pawns could now advance two ranks on their first move, passed pawns became easier to obtain.

A passed pawn is a criminal which should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient.

Aron Nimzowitsch

To avoid the radical dynamics in chess games, people created the en passant rule to prevent players from obtaining passed pawns made from jumping to the side of the opponent’s pawn. (Source: Chess)

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